A small Sydney community has united behind a family’s desperate search for a beloved toy bunny after it was lost while a toddler was out walking with her mother.
Sofia Simpson has been crying herself to sleep since her furry best friend went missing last Friday afternoon near Queens Park in the city’s eastern suburbs.
The 16-month-old’s anguished parents Trish Ferreira and Russell Simpson have put up posters in surrounding streets pleading for help finding the toy.
‘We don’t normally let Bunny out of the house in fear of this,’ Ms Ferreira said.
‘It’s her only comfort. She’s never taken to anything else – not a dummy, nothing – it’s only ever been Bunny.’
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A Sydney community has united behind a family’s search for a beloved toy bunny after it was lost while a toddler was out walking with her mother. Sofia Simpson has been distraught since the toy went missing on September 5 near Queens Park in the city’s eastern suburbs
Sofia’s anguished parents Trish Ferreira and Russell Simpson (pictured with the 16-month-old) have put up posters in surrounding streets pleading for help finding her toy bunny
Already at least three residents have contacted Ms Ferreira and Mr Simpson after finding toys similar to Sofia’s but they have not been the right one.
‘I’ve lost count of the people that have come forward,’ Ms Ferreira said.
‘It’s been a really amazing community effort so many people trying to help and look and even offer their own bunnies.’
One 15-year-old girl offered to give Sofia an identical Jellycat Bashful Beige Bunny she had kept since early childhood but a substitute will not be good enough.
The couple has tried comforting Sofia with a ‘back-up’ bunny bought four months ago in case the original was ever lost but their daughter was not falling for the ruse.
‘She doesn’t want a bar of it,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘She takes him, smells him and throws him out of the cot.’
Ms Ferreira said a friend had given Sofia the toy shortly after she was born in May last year and his loss had devastated her daughter.
‘We call him stinky Bunny,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘He’s covered in sweat, tears, snot, dog slobber, you name it.
‘We don’t normally let Bunny out of the house in fear of this,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘It’s her only comfort. She’s never taken to anything else – not a dummy, nothing – it’s only ever been Bunny’
Ms Ferreira has retraced the steps of the journey on which Bunny disappeared. She and Sofia set off from their Bondi Junction home and finished at Queens Park playground
‘She has many, many other similar looking toys, other bunnies in other colours, but this is the one she chose.
‘He’s always tucked under her chin. She falls asleep with nothing else in her cot, just Bunny. Every morning she gets up and she’s standing in her cot holding Bunny.
‘She’s still waking up at 5am looking for him. We got so upset seeing how upset she was. It’s taken me three days to stop crying myself to be honest.’
The Jellycat Bashful Beige Bunny is freely available online but Sofia wants her own back
Ms Ferreira headed out with Sofia in her pram from the family’s home in Mackenzie St, Bondi Junction, about 2pm on September 5.
‘We were just very busy on Friday rushing to an appointment,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘I didn’t realise Dad had given her Bunny.’
Mother and child went down Birrell Street, turned into Bronte Road, then attended a house inspection in Edmund Street after cutting through Henry Street.
‘I took her out of the pram and held her the entire time,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘I saw she had Bunny in her hand.’
After viewing the house Ms Ferreira put Sofia back in the pram and the pair followed Carrington Road until it meets Darley Road and finished their journey at Queens Park Playground near The Shed cafe.
‘As we were packing up to go home about 3.30 I was putting her back in the pram and I suddenly just had this stomach-churning realisation,’ Ms Ferreira said.
‘Hang on, where’s Bunny? I had a look around the pram and I think I just knew. I couldn’t find him. She was so distraught.’
A frantic Ms Ferreira called Mr Simpson who cancelled a meeting and drove to join the search. She also rang a real estate agent who contacted the home owner in Edmund Street but Bunny was not there.
It began pouring rain as the couple retraced Ms Ferreira’s route, dropping Sofia into her child care centre where staff were horrified that Bunny was gone.
‘We looked in bushes, we looked in bins, we looked in people’s mail boxes just in case,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘We asked people that we saw that are local in the area, “Have you seen a bunny?”‘
Back home the night just got worse as Mr Simpson went out searching with a torch and Sofia wept uncontrollably for her lost partner in cuddles.
‘It was horrible,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘We were cuddling her and she just cried and cried. Eventually she cried herself to sleep.
‘That night was pretty horrific. She normally wakes up at seven but she was awake at five. You could see her looking around the cot, searching for him and crying.’
Ms Ferreira got a call from a lady who said she had found Bunny and told her: ‘He’s got a white tail, floppy ears, the label on the back says Jellycat London.’ The family is pictured
The couple pulled out their back-up Bunny but Sofia rejected him as a fraud.
‘No matter how much we give her the other bunny she just didn’t want it,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘Which is funny and heart-wrenching at the same time.
‘She just won’t take to him. She knows the difference. She knows it’s not her Bunny.’
The next morning the couple retraced Ms Ferreira’s steps again and left a description of Bunny with their details at Waverley police station.
They printed 25 posters appealing for help and put them up around Queens Park then dropped 10 more in Darley Road letter boxes after a possible sighting.
Strangers posted the appeal for Bunny on Instagram and community Facebook pages, including one for Queens Park’s dog walkers.
Ms Ferreira got a call from a lady who said she had found Bunny and told her: ‘He’s got a white tail, floppy ears, the label on the back says Jellycat London.’
‘I ran home crying from relief,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘I got to the front of the house and she was definitely holding a bunny.
‘It was the same brand. It was so similar but it wasn’t Bunny. She had found him on the street. So there’s all these bunnies who are missing their owner.’
‘We haven’t seen any family now since roughly Christmas,’ Ms Ferreira said. ‘Its been a very long difficult year with COVID as it has been for a lot of people.’ Sofia stopped crying for Father’s Day (pictured)
At least two other residents – one from Marrickville in the inner-west – had also found similar toys that were not Bunny.
‘I got a call from a 15-year-old girl who said, “I saw your posters, I have exactly the same bunny from when I was little and I’d like to give her mine”.’
Ms Ferreira took a box of chocolates around to the girl’s house. ‘I said to her mum, “You should be so proud for a 15-year-old to have that level of empathy”.’
Ms Ferreira, a 40-year-old program manager for Centennial Parklands, and Mr Simpson, a 36-year-old town planner, have no other family in Sydney.
‘We haven’t seen any family now since roughly Christmas,’ she said. ‘Its been a very long difficult year with COVID as it has been for a lot of people.’
The loss of Bunny has united swathes of the community around Queens Park as the search for Sofia’s lost companion goes on. ‘We walk down the street and people we don’t know recognise us and Sofia in the pram,’ Ms Ferreira said. The family is pictured
The loss of Bunny has united swathes of the community around Queens Park as the search for Sofia’s lost companion goes on.
‘We walk down the street and people we don’t know recognise us and Sofia in the pram,’ Ms Ferreira said.
‘They go, “Have you found him yet?” “We’ve got one the same if you want” or “That happened to us too”.’
‘I think that’s the best thing that’s come out of this. It’s just a lovely a sense of community, it’s blown me away.’
Ms Ferreira said the sightings of similar bunnies gave her hope Sofia’s toy would be found.
‘I’m hopeful that he’s dropped into a bush or he’s somewhere and someone will spot him and maybe give us a call,’ she said. ‘I just know the reunion would be beautiful.
‘We’ve often asked ourselves in the night when she’s gone to bed, “Where are you Bunny?”‘
‘I half expect to open the front door one morning and he’s made his way back, Paddington Bear style. Wherever you are, just come home.’